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"The Red Wheelbarrow", an Homage to William Carlos Williams - Kathie R. Kerler

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

My inspiration is the poem titled “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams written in 1923. Williams was a physician at a time when much of America was still rural. He was tending to a sick young girl in her home. At one point, he parted the curtains in her bedroom and gazed upon the scene of a wheelbarrow and chickens.

Here's my initial layout.

I included the poem so viewers can appreciate it as the wonderful, spare writing that it is. Four stanzas. The first line of each stanza is three words. The second line of each stanza is one. That’s it. Yet his words perfectly paint a picture.

I worked with white-on-white fabrics for the background and chickens. Details are painted with Inktense pencils in red and orange. The motifs are outlined and detailed in black embroidery thread.

While researching images of wheelbarrows and chickens I found many artists had been similarly inspired by this poem. Rather than recreate the scene as so many did with a figure peering through curtains and a barnyard scene, I deconstructed the poem into its three main motifs: wheelbarrow, chickens, and rain. The shapes are simple and reflect the nature of Williams' writing, which is to give the pertinent details of the picture and nothing more. I also wanted to create a quilt with the feel of the era in which the poem was written.

The finished top prior to quilting.

Detail images

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